The Springfield Project service: evaluation of a Solihull Approach course for foster carers

Sarah Madigan, Kate Paton, Naomi Mackett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)


Many young people in care have experienced trauma. The emotional and behavioural issues that often ensue, along with foster carers’ varying levels of confidence and skills, are cited as the main reasons for placement disruption. Placement breakdown can represent a further trauma for young people and is also highly costly for local authorities. The need for interventions to develop foster carers’ competence and confidence in understanding and managing foster children’s behaviour is therefore significant. The Solihull Approach (SA) promotes the parent and child relationship by emphasising the need for emotional containment and a reciprocal relationship so as to form a framework for thinking about, understanding and effectively managing behaviour. The ‘Solihull Approach course for foster carers: understanding your foster child’s behaviour’ is a 12-week programme tailored to the demands of this task. It has been run within the Springfield Project in Fife, Scotland for the past four years. In the reported study 83 participants completed evaluation forms. A thematic analysis of their replies revealed that the most important things learned were: taking a step back; understanding the effects of trauma; reciprocity; communication and play; containment (of my child); understanding my child; and the ability to offload when full up. The course helped participants to better understand their foster child by clarifying the nature of the relationship and their role, understanding the impact of the child’s early experiences and appreciating that she or he is not to blame. Participants took from the course: increased understanding; being part of the group; staying calm and thinking before they act; feeling more confident; and looking after themselves and seeking containment. Pre- and post-Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) questionnaires were collected from 34 carers with children in the six to 18 age group and 13 looking after children aged one-and-a-half to five years. Paired samples t-tests revealed no statistically significant difference in pre- and post-scores in either the six- to 18-year-olds (t(33) = 1.6, p = 0.114) or the one-and-a-half- to five-year-olds (t(12) = 2, p = 0.069). Possible reasons for this and its implications are explored. However, the identified qualitative themes suggest that the aims of the training are being met. There was a strong overall sense that foster carers found the course helpful and informative, suggesting that it could represent a valuable intervention for promoting placement security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-267
Number of pages14
JournalAdoption & Fostering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Foster care
  • Solihull Approach
  • training
  • understanding behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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